Eighty years ago, Finland recognises that the fairy story of British and French intervention on their behalf will never come to anything

Britain and France were still deep in their ill-thought out and largely pointless project to intervene on the Finnish side of the Winter War against the Soviet Union. Their muddled thinking embraced how the Scandinavian neutrals would respond to requests for troop transit, the scale of the intervention (France blithely promised 100,000 troops on the basis of zero staff work whilst the British havered over sending a few dozen bombers) to the concrete military and political goals of the operation. It is an open question whether action was ever seriously intended. It was in Britain's interest to keep the conflict between Finland and the Soviet Union going, but harder to grasp to strategic logic; leaving the Finns to their fate would be political unpopular in both countries and, certainly the British, appeared to prioritise manoeuvres to avoid this above anything practical.

Unsurprisingly the Finns paid only moderate attention to what Britain's top diplomatic admitted privately was a "fairy story." Helsinki recognised that the military balance had swung against them and sent a delgation to Moscow to negotiate peace whilst the Soviets were in a mood to accept that the military cost of victory on the gound might not be justified by results.

British diplomacy moved into more effective mode in its handling of Italy. An embargo was declared on German coal exports. Given the difficulty of land transit of such a bulky commodity by rail through Switzerland, much of the tonnage went by ship down the Channel. This gave the Royal Navy the opportunity to detain a dozen ships carrying coal to Italy and to hold them in the Downs. The British could begin negotations with the Italians from a position of strength.

The charade of the European tour by US Secretary of State Sument Welles reached Berlin. Welles was treated with an outward show of respect and attention, but Hitler was in no mood for serious discussions. All the Germans who were to meet Welles were instructed to maintain the Nazi fiction that the war had come about solely because Britain and France wished it. 

The balance sheet of the Bank der Deutsche Arbeit AG (German labour bank) was published. It showed RM135bn of deposits paid in by German workers as advance payments on Volkswagen cars. As production of the car had been halted at the outbreak of war this amounted to no more than a direct loan to the state. Savers were given a numbered receipt which entitled them to a car after the war.


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